The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) reported that the country’s headline inflation for January stood at 28.3 per cent on a year-on-year basis, marking a slight decrease from the December figure of 29.7 per cent. The month-on-month reading recorded a 1.8 per cent increase.

This latest data brings the average inflation for the period of July to January to 28.73 per cent, up from 25.40 per cent in the corresponding period of the previous year. Despite this surge, the inflation rate aligns with the government’s expectations.

The Ministry of Finance, in its ‘Monthly Economic Update and Outlook’ report released on Wednesday, projected a CPI-based inflation rate of 27.5-28.5 per cent for January 2024. The report attributed the inflationary pressure to elevated prices of perishables and vegetables, along with increased utility costs for electricity and gas.

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A contributing factor to the rising prices has been a surge in onion export orders following the Indian ban, straining local supply and causing domestic prices to escalate.

Severe weather disruptions led to supply shortages of tomatoes, resulting in price hikes, while reduced chicken supply, especially from controlled sheds facing higher input costs, contributed to increased chicken prices.

JS Global, in a report from last week, anticipated that inflation would remain elevated, particularly in the food segment. The report predicted a 1.8 per cent month-on-month uptick in food prices, resulting in an overall January 2024 YoY CPI estimate of 27.9 per cent.

The brokerage house noted that the CPI inflation in the coming months is expected to remain on the lower side amid the decline in local fuel prices and the high base effect of last year.

Breaking down the inflation figures, urban areas recorded a year-on-year CPI inflation of 30.2 per cent in January 2024, slightly lower than the previous month’s 30.9 per cent and higher than January 2023’s 24.4 per cent. On a month-on-month basis, urban inflation increased by 1.8 per cent in January 2024.

In rural areas, year-on-year CPI inflation for January 2024 was 25.7 per cent, down from the previous month’s 27.9 per cent but higher than January 2023’s 32.3 per cent. On a month-on-month basis, rural inflation increased by 1.9 per cent in January 2024.

The PBS data indicates a nuanced inflationary landscape in Pakistan, with both urban and rural areas experiencing fluctuations in prices across various commodities. The government’s focus on addressing these challenges remains critical as it navigates the economic impact of inflation on citizens and businesses.